Journalism in the Public Interest

Gulf Spill Victims’ ‘Escalated’ Claims Still Languishing


Wade Bonvillain, who owns a seafood company, questions Ken Feinberg, Administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, during a public meeting on Aug. 18, 2010 in Houma, La. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Claimants seeking compensation for the Gulf oil spill who can demonstrate financial need may have their claims “escalated”—selected for prompt processing—by paymaster Kenneth Feinberg’s operation. But some applicants are experiencing long waits even after being told their claims had been expedited. Eleven claimants told ProPublica that despite their claims being escalated, they are still waiting for a decision weeks later. Six of these claimants have been waiting for more than a month.

Feinberg told ProPublica that escalation means that a claim is “immediately prioritized” and moved to the front of the queue for processing. He said that a claimant must show financial need, such as the risk of eviction or bankruptcy, in order to be selected for acceleration. Feinberg has never promised a specific timeframe for deciding on escalated claims, and he said that the amount of time needed for a decision depends on the contents of the application.

“There are no guarantees or targets” for response time, Feinberg said in an e-mail. “It all depends on the nature of the documentation and the policy decisions that I have to make about particular claims.”

Feinberg’s operation does not release statistics about escalated claims, and it is impossible to tell how many claims have been escalated or the duration of the average wait for a decision on these claims. Feinberg said that claims are processed in a single queue that operates on the principle of “first in, first out” and that claimants confronting financial need are the only ones who can skip to the front of the line.

ProPublica spoke with 13 claimants whose cases have been escalated. (We contacted them on Oct. 14 via our BP Claims Project.) Only two have received notice of a decision on their claim, and only one has actually received a check.

Applicants whose claims have remained escalated without a decision expressed concern and frustration with the ongoing delays. (The Washington Independent has also published an account of a claimant who experienced a long wait even after escalation.)

Nick Athens, who filed a claim for lost income from vacation rentals in Destin and Pensacola Beach, Fla., said that he has fallen behind on the mortgage payments for vacation rental properties he owns. In previous years, he used rental income from the spring and summer to cover the mortgage for the rest of year, but this year rentals dropped off following the spill.

Athens has received one check for a fraction of his claim on one property, but the majority of his claim is still pending. He said his case was escalated on Sept. 28 and that he was told he could expect a decision within a week.

On Oct. 7, he had not yet received a response, and he e-mailed Feinberg’s operation to try to speed up the process. “I have until October 16 to make the mortgage payment, after which I risk damage to my credit rating for late payments and possibly going into foreclosure,” Athens wrote.

His claim has still not received a response. “It’s just incredibly, incredibly frustrating,” Athens said.

Mike Kahn, who worked for a contractor in Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility corresponding with applicants whose claims had been escalated, said that all he could do to help claimants was request documentation proving their financial need and forward the information along to his supervisors. He did not know how the information was used and said that he would follow certain cases in the system in the hope of seeing them approved.

“The only thing I know is that days later, these people still would not have been paid,” Kahn said. “And there would be no evidence that the file was moving where it needed to go.”

Only one claimant said that she had actually received a check from Feinberg. Marcia Mandel, whose claim for lost revenue for her hotel in southern Florida sat for weeks after being escalated on Sept. 26, said that a check arrived in the mail on Oct. 15.

I filed on 8/23.  Was esculated on 9/30 and still nothing.  Is there anyone else out there who filed on 8/23 and not got paid yet.

Oh wow only one person the hell with the rest of us. Every time I look finberg is e-mailing I bet it is not even him sending sasha the e-mail it is one of his asses

Sam I was esculated since sept 26 and still have not gotten paid.

Calling thim now on hold will let you know what was said.

L when did you file?

Filed August 25 went into review September 25 was esculated on september 26 and was   esculated 6 times after that and it is still being esculated everytime I call.

this is getting out of control. I have been escalated 5 times and talked to a thousand people. Last week, i was finaly told they needed one further piece of information. I faxed it and brought it to a claims office last tuesday. Today they claim they don’t have it.  My life is in ruins. Does anyone have any kind of back door contact into this place?

I filed on the August 25th but originally filed with BP the first week of July.  This whole system has sucked.  I have on the 16th of October I got a call from the GCCF number saying my claim has been completed and I should get paid this past week.  NO MONEY in by bank from GCCF.

I filed in June and then refiled on 8/23.  I have been esculated so many times.  They tell me I am with the payment team.  I went into the gccf office this am and they said they would call me.  I have heard nothing.  I don’t know what to do.  I am about to lose my health ins and everything.

Another thing. I am greatful to propublica for not taking down the comments section. No other news—esp. newspaper—site keeps their comments up. It seems like with all the people being burned by gccf that there would be a heavily populated forum…if there is I can’t find it. Why wouldn’t or have a forum?? BP is at work trying to silence us. Thanks again propublica

I am still under review from Aug 23rd.  Last week I was sent a letter saying they needed proof of income for 2009 and proof of income for 2010 I gathered my paperwork and have taken my bank statements from April19, 2010 to Present day to the GCCF local claims office.  I have been partially paid by BP but the GCCF hasn’t given me a dime.  Thanks Sasha and Propublica.

filed on 8/23 was the 5,143 person to file with feinberg,
sent me a letter asking for tax info when they had it from and since 8/23 , and this was a wekk ago, now still under review , my company claim is under review still

I am still waiting was escaleted weeks agao, spoke with some yesterday, still I am just under review.
What is it going to take?????
Mean while I am washing dishes just to make some money…
health insurance is gone, cant fill medications, cant see a dr.  2 month behind on rent..
what are we to do….

i lost everything 2 months ago, and still waiting, the house is next not long now, its a game , asking for more info that they had since 8/23 , and i had a claim in with bp since june 1 , i hav been waiting over 6 months and counting

i like how they removed the payment stats from the website so we and the news can not see who they are paying money too now, hiding and lieing , feinberg at his best

This morning I gave seven employees their pink slips.  I could no longer wait for Feinberg to keep giving me the run around.  I called the company accountant and told him I am now OUT OF BUSINESS.  I called my attorney and told him to go forward with whatever it takes to file suit with BP or any other company that is responsible for this. 

It is a shame where one man is in charge for playing GOD with peoples lives.

Thank god for the team I contacted Sasha about a week ago telling her my story same as all of u.Filed aug 4 transfered to GCCF on aug 24 escalated on Sep 30 and again on Oct 10 still waiting I did however send an email to my governor and he forwarded the email to GCCF and I got a call from the “escalation team” who said my claim was in the final stage I asked how long would that process be and she said “I cant tell you how long because u have my name and u might send another email to your governor.So we refresh and wait still waiting at least im not alone.

i have been escalated so many times now that if it wa a building i could jump off and kill myself, it would be at least 10 storys high

I filed on Aug 23 and have been under review since Aug 25. I have received two phone calls from GCCF telling me my claim was in the final stages of review. The most recent call was October 15th.It is a simple, individual loss of income claim about 16 pages long. I am still waiting. How can they pay a hotel in South Florida before they pay the claims to the actual victims??? We had oil on our beaches and shorelines. It was not a perception here, it was a reality. This is just insanely unfair. I get sick when I see the ads and commercials about BP being here and making it right. Making it right for who???

here is feinbergs press sec, in his office

amy weiss 202-203-0448

This is absolutely pitiful - what liars our government people are.

Feinberg said that claims are processed in a single queue that operates on the principle of “first in, first out”.
What a bunch of crap!!!.  My business partner filed her claim 1 week later than me and got paid 3 days ago.  We have the exact claims because we are 50% partners.  If it was first in first out there wouldnt be all these people with problems on claims filed on 8/23

Got a call yesterday from a supervisor….returning my c all from the 17th, but said she could not help or give any info other than what was on the web site.  Said she thinks some checks will be going out the end of the month??????

Anyone who field with BP more then 90 days ago can file under OPA with the coast guard, there is a law says BP had 90 days from your first claim to pay out , when they didn’t you became eligible to claim with the coast guard. I have gotten more helpful info from them on Friday and today then since June 9th filing with BP all together !!! They said it takes about 2 -4 weeks TOTAL !!!! Usually from file date to check, not only that but I can call my claim processor who KNOWS ME By name and case!! ! Daily!!! How awesome is that ??? I gave up on GCCF when someone called my house from their call center and said I was denied but their computer never updated to that and now it seems they have me back under review after BP originally approved me back in July ....If you filed with the BP claims center before July 25th you can claim under OPA , if your denied by GCCF you can claim under OPA… anyone need more info?

Here are two people involved with feinberg , its the Amy chick Darryl found and another name coming up with it too !

Debra DeShong Reed, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 202-528-4214

Amy Weiss, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 202-203-0448

I’m a shrimper total lost of income feiberg gave me $13,000. and told me that enough to leave on until next year and if I don’t like that file a final claim kinda funny hooter waitress got $20,000 and still has a job.  We all should go work for McDonald those worker got $18,000.00 something wrong.  I only ask for the money I lost Thats below poverty level.  feinberg is hiding will not have another meeting maybe we should picket obama since he got us into this mess

i filed on aug 23. and have been told it was escalated 3 times and couldnt be escalated anymore, and the review dept has had my file for going on 3 wks, everything is in. we are in a black hole, frustration, the august filers have been thrown away and their rights violated

FIled 09/21. Under Review 09/22 Escalated10/09.
Claim contained 12 pages of documentation.

I also do not understand how thousands of people who have filed claims after me have been paid, yet Feinberg states that the GCCF has a “First in , first out policy.”  If this were the case one of three things should have happened weeks ago with my claim -
1.  Approve my claim
2.  Request additional information
3.  Deny the claim
All I hear is “your claim is under review”.  My bills could care less if my claim is “under review”.

With the coast guard if you file with them you can not sue BP that is the catch

YESSSSSSSSSSS we should picket lets pickes obams since he got us in this mess and put this ass hole in charge. Let rent some vans and go to washington and let Fienberg know that the people from the GULF is not playing.

Out of time: thank our goverment for this the people we so call elected to protect us or should I say stand up for us. Because they appointed him not us

With OPA, if you need to go back and claim more later on , you can as well BTW, this is a payment for up to now, all the losses you can prove you can claim, and you get what you ask /can prove, not whatever GCCF decides you get…

I also had to tell them I wasn’t suing BP CURRENTLY, that’s the kicker you cant have a lawsuit WHILE your claiming with GCCF. You don’t sign away your right to sue BP later for other stuff, you do agree not to hit them again for the same damages OPA paid, seems pretty fair deal to me ...

Its not for everyone, I just thought for people as desperate as I am to save my house its a small sliver of hope.. right now , that’s all some of us have left…

Sorry Please allow me to correct my above post, it is late and I am tired
The sentence
” You cant have an lawsuit while your claiming with GCCF”

Should corrected read:

“You cant have a lawsuit while your claiming with OPA”

Sorry about any confusion

Christine: Thats all right we are all tried GCCF is clowning us.

What does escalating mean? MIne is under review. Does it say escalating on your page that tells if it went through.

@ Marsh, Mr Feinberg said he was making an     ” escalation” team to handle Dire emergency claims, like my house going into foreclosure for instance. They supposedly put you in a quicker Que and review you swiftly and get your money to you soonest if your approved… I was escalated 3 times total, im still listed by GCCF as ” Under review” the only response I really got from being escalated was a prank call from GCCF !!! Told me I was denied, but it seems im not…

Regardless I let the Coast Guard handle my claim as of today officially, I will keep y’all posted right up to check day ( hopefully)

maybe someday we will be out from under review

63 days filed
4 weeks escalated
2 weeks with payment team

I am heading to the gccf office and see if I can find out anything.

day 65

Sheila Newman

Oct. 26, 2010, 7:40 a.m.

Still waiting….filed on August 24th, sent 3 years of taxes and profit and loss statements for 3 years -5 times. A week ago received email from GCCF they have received it. Still under review. No check. No new information. What is GCCF waiting on?

yeah they asked me for taxes too when they had them in the files, since 8/23, and still under review , just games untill the 30th they have to pay us interest on the 6th month so they will wait untill the 30th of this month

Darryl what is this about the 30th and 6th and interest?  I have not heard this.  Where did you find this out?

still under review today from august 23. bp was giving us emergency checks for may thru july, then we refiled with gccf in august, and feinberg threw us away.
this is completly crazy. i think that we should be able to recieve some sort of compensation aside from the claim for being mistreated by gccf

just called the garden city group , , and a lady answered the phone and said, excuse me, how did you get this number, she was rude, and said call gccfs 800 number, and i answered i do everyday, then she said email them, i said are you kidding me? thats a joke, then she went on to blab useless stuff like they do that in another dept, i then said so you are not willing to do anything either for the passed over filers who are in review for no apparent reason, she then hung up

this month oct is the 6 month emergency payment month, and the rules on the website say you are supposed to get interest every month you are waiting to get paid,  paid on and by the end of the month 30th day , thats how they figure the interest on the months, thats why some got more then one check and they sent out checks to people that did not get the interest in the begining,

the oil pollution act of 1990 , by our government is the rules they have to go by , its the exxon oil spill, they set rules and regs, since then and the gccf website tells you if you read all of them , that you are to be paidthe interest of that month you are paid,they owe you interest for how ever many days in the month they take to pay you, feinberg says its to be generous and give out more thats a lie, its the interest they owe everyone on your money.

i am making it my mission to find out who is responsible for this mess. why did alot of the august filers and some sept. get passed over, and kept in review for no reason. i have emailed garden city group, called garden city group, email feinbergs office, emailed david at brown greer, who else? i dont have the presidents email, or feinbergs personal email or number,or i would… we have been mistreated and need to demand everyone involved answer, and let everyone we can know just how the gccf is trying to hide the passed over stats.

Christine: I receive the same call from a guy name Don telling me that I was denied, and when I call GCCF to ask them for my denied letterm so I can give it to my attorney they told me they do not see anything of me being denied. Someone from feinberg office or GCCF is call people and telling them this

Pursuant to OPA, the responsible party or the responsible party’s guarantor is liable to a claimant for interest on the amount paid in satisfaction of a claim. The period for which interest shall be paid is the period beginning on the 30th day following the date on which the claim is presented to the responsible party or guarantor and ending on the date on which the claim is paid. However, if in any period a claimant is not paid due to reasons beyond the control of the responsible party, no interest shall accrue during that period. Here, GCCF will argue that the “insufficient documentation” submitted by the claimant was beyond BP’s control.

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